Six policemen were injured and a train stopped in Uttar Pradesh during a 'Bharat Bandh' called by upper-caste groups, but everyday life remained largely unaffected across the state.
The bandh was called to protest the recent amendments to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Parliament to overturn a Supreme Court judgment. Reports from districts across the state said life was by-and-large normal despite the bandh call, officials in Lucknow said.
However, in Kanpur, protesters stopped an intercity train at Panki railway station, but fled as soon as the GRP and RPF reached the spot, inspector S N Pandey said.
Heavy force was deployed in the Gorakhpur, where protesters blocked the Gorakhpur-Varansi national highway for three hours, hitting traffic movement.
In Sonbhadra district, the bandh had a good response, with minor incidents between the protestors and shopkeepers being reported from some places. About 50 protesters were taken into custody after a clash in Robertsganj town, in which a young girl had suffered minor burns, said Sub-Divisional Magistrate Sadab Alam.
Protesters burnt the effigy of the government in Kushinagar, whereas students protested at Sant Vinoba Bhave Degree College in Deoria and submitted a memorandum at the district magistrate's office.
In Etah, protesters surrounded the home of Jalesar MLA Sanjeev Diwakar, who had to call the police. "I was with the people of my constituency when members of the 'Savarna Samaj', especially those belonging to Awagarh town, raised slogans and misbehaved with locals," the BJP leader said.
In Ballia, bandh supporters had a heated argument with another BJP MLA, Anand Swarup Shukla from Ballia Sadar, who refused to back them. Superintendent of Police Sriparna Ganguly said some people resorted to brick-batting in which six policemen were injured.
BJP MLA from Bairia, Surendra Singh, came out openly in support of the bandh. "Upper-caste people made me the MLA and not Muslims and Dalits. I am ready to sacrifice for the upper caste. If my upper-caste supporters ask me I can also resign (from my seat) for their sake," he said.
Normal life was also hit in Agra, where shops in main markets remained shut and agitators in several parts of the city blocked traffic.
Commenting on the strike, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, "It (Bharat Bandh call) has no meaning. People have their feelings. In a democracy everyone has the right to express themselves."
"The BJP government is committed towards the welfare of people and development. We never play politics of caste and religion. The law is to protect the downtrodden. The government will ensure that it will not be misused," he told reporters in Gonda.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 ruled out immediate arrests under the Act and suggested a preliminary enquiry to ensure the allegations were not frivolous and to avoid the false implication of innocent persons. It also held that a government official could not be prosecuted under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority.
This decision had triggered nationwide protests by Dalit organisations, forcing the Centre to amend the Act during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament to overrule the SC order.
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